Twenty-three non-resident students were removed from local schools during the 2017-18 school year out of 118 cases investigated by Milford Public Schools.
The district hired a residency and truancy coordinator on a part-time basis for the school year that just concluded. The position was funded at $25,000 for a 20-hour work week for 11 months of the year.
Jeffrey Nielsen, coordinator of school safety and security, presented a residency report at the Board of Education’s July 9 meeting, noting that there were 118 residency investigations in the 2017-18 school year.
Of these, 67 were confirmed to be Milford residents, 23 were confirmed as non-residents and removed from Milford schools, and 28 cases were unresolved due to time constraints.
The district realized a direct cost savings of $76,226 in special support services for six students, and $11,584 in transportation costs, school officials said.
The report also noted there were potential additional savings in the 2018-19 school year. This could include the need to purchase fewer instructional materials and reduced transportation costs. If the non-residents had pushed class enrollment higher, there could be an additional savings of $60,000 to $80,000 in salary and benefits if an additional teacher would have had to be hired.
Nielsen said the position has a dual role that involves both residency and truancy concerns. He said the coordinator has reached out to other school districts to learn about best practices and what might be successful in those districts.
Nielsen said she worked with these districts to establish a Residency/Truancy Peer Network with Stratford, Fairfield, Shelton and Ansonia to share information and resources. The district is hoping to expand this network to other local school districts and to meet three times a year.
“In both roles they work together on some things, guided by state law with truancy and residency to see what works best for everybody,” said Nielsen. “The ultimate goal to make sure kids are getting the proper education and going to school.”
He said the position would be increased in hours from 20 to 30 for 2018-19 school year with a salary boost to $37,500. At that time, investigation will resume on the 28 unresolved cases with any new ones added.
Nielsen said the non-residents usually come from one of the surrounding towns. There may be cases where a Milford resident moves to another town and the parents may wish to maintain contact with existing friends. People may also want to attend Milford school for childcare reasons.
“We receive tips from citizens and from our school employees and based on the information we received, there are indicators we look at to see if we have a residency issue,” said Nielsen.
He said that with these cases, the district is trying to get early intervention to come up with a solution. In some situations, a truancy case turns out to be a residency situation. A student attends school irregularly and the investigation determines this is happening because they have transportation issues.
“We are not looking to turn students away, but we need to preserve taxpayer dollars, “ said Nielsen. “We provide assistance to these students and families to properly register them in the correct district. We provide the family with a time frame to correct matters if they need to.”